Gadsden County Receives Healthy Start Grant

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Wednesday, members of the Gadsden Community Health Council announced a breakthrough in the fight against the county's high infant mortality rate.

"Gadsden County has been studied and it has more statistics than anybody in the world I think, and now it's time for us to put things into action," says Elmon Garner, chair of the newly formed Gadsden Community Healthy Start Coalition.

The council has now been awarded Healthy Start funding; $300,000 will be received each year to provide counseling and prenatal care to expecting mothers.

"The first year of the Healthy Start Coalition we will be preparing a strategic plan to go out and in year two, we will provide direct services," says Sherry Vanlandingham, chair of the Gadsden Community Health Council, which applied for the funding about two years ago but was denied.

This is the reason council members are glad to finally have funding in place in an effort to keep infant deaths on the decline.

"Since the Gadsden Community Health Council has been in place, we've seen those numbers reduce from 21 deaths per 1,000 live births to currently 14 deaths per 1,000 live births," says Florida State Rep. Curtis Richardson.

Though the numbers are dropping, Gadsden County's rate is double the state's average of seven deaths per 1,000 live births. The hope is that the grant provide a healthy start for all of the county's newborns.

Healthy Start was signed into law back in 1991.